Millions of Cable TV Consumers Face Blackout Over Distribution Dispute

Photo by Fran Jacquier via Unsplash

Millions of Cable TV Consumers Face Blackout Over Distribution Dispute

By Movieguide® Contributor 

Millions of DirecTV customers lost access to local stations and news networks as the cable service battles with Nexstar over distribution contract. 

“DirecTV and Nexstar were unable to reach a new distribution agreement allowing DirecTV the right to continue airing the highly-rated programming on Nexstar’s local stations. In addition, DirecTV rejected Nexstar’s offer to extend the current distribution agreement to Oct. 31, 2023,” Nexstar said in a statement. 

“Nexstar has been negotiating tirelessly and in good faith in a n attempt to reach a mutually agreeable multi-year contract with DirecTV since May, offering the same fair market rates it offered to other distribution partners with whom it complete successful negotiations in the past year,” the statement continued. “Nexstar routinely reaches amicable retransmission and carriage agreements with its cable, satellite, and telco partners – in the last three years alone, the company has successfully completed agreements with more than 500 distribution partners.” 

159 ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and CW affiliates went dark on Sunday as Nexstar, the nation’s largest local-station owner, cut access to DirecTV subscribers. L.A., Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver were among the largest markets impacted as stations like KTLA and WGN were brought down. 

The companies have been negotiating since May to resolve their issues, but a lack of urgency has brought the talks past the June 30th deadline. Outside of the MLB and the Women’s World Cup, there is little to drive cable viewership this summer, especially as the writers strike continues to halt production on scripted shows. DirecTV is unlikely to feel large pressure to end the blackouts until the NFL season begins in the fall. 

“Nexstar has a long track record of forcing programming outages in an effort ot unnecessarily raise prices,” Rob Thun, chief content officer of DirecTV said in response to the Nexstar blackout. 

“We will continue to work with Nexstar to reach an agreement and will take all necessary actions to provide our customers access to their favorite programming while protecting them from unwarranted price increases,” Thun added. 

To combat the unnecessary price hike, DirecTV has filed a complaint with the FCC over Nexstar’s artificially increased prices. Nexstar’s “sidecar deals,” the complaint says, amount to an increase in the company’s scale, circumventing federal ownership limits. 

Nexstar meanwhile, states that their “shared service” deals are fully compliant with FCC rules and the company “looks forward to prevailing in court.” 

Unfortunately, it seems that the companies are still long away from a deal to restore access to customers. Many viewers will potentially have to wait months before the blackout ends and they can receive local news and weather again.